Amid resounding debate on the single faith ticket and resort to ethnicity by parties, which has defined the campaigns so far. A coalition of over 500 women organisations under the aegis of Womanifesto movement, yesterday, provoked a fresh controversy over the 2023 elections.
When it stated that none of the presidential candidates has told them his concrete plans for women and girls in the country.
Though they refused to declare support for any candidate, the women’s group disclosed that plans have been concluded to meet all presidential candidates today to table home their demands.
Among presidential candidates expected at the meeting are Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP) and 15 others.
The Womanifesto leaders spoke at the national women’s dialogue with the theme, ‘Electoral Integrity and Accountability: Towards Corruption-free Elections’ in Abuja.
Funded by MacArthur Foundation and Women’s Rights Advancement & Protection Alternative (WRAPA Nigeria), in partnership with Affirmative Action Initiative for Women.
They emphasised that 2023 elections won’t be business as usual, noting that women would demand for the best and hold those vying for public offices accountable.
Members of the coalition include Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Education as a Vaccine (EVA), Enough is Enough (EiE), Emerge Women (EW), Empowerment and Action Research Centre (EARC), Equality Through Education Foundation (ETEF), Equity Advocates/The Woman, FAME Foundation, Federation of Informal Workers of Nigeria (FIWON), Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria (FOMWAN) and Federation of Paralegal Network (FEDPAN), among others.
Speaking, co-convener, Womanifesto Dialogue, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said it was high time the political class stopped treating women as second-class citizens in the country, adding, “our identity and dignity as women matter.”
She said among issues of top priority to women is the declaration of state of emergency on violence against women and girls.
Others include increased women political participation, empowerment, sexual and reproductive health rights for women, constitutional reform to stop marginalisation of women and security.
Afolabi said: “We are asking for five concrete issues that the government should attend to.
For example, on ending violence against women, we noticed that about 31 of the 36 states have been able to pass the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law (VAPP), which was one of the things we put as a demand.
“But today, looking at the 2023 election, we are really alarmed with the extent of corruption that is going on, especially what happened during the primaries.
“We realised that the judiciary also has not been supportive of women. Imagine women were been asked by lawyers to bring N250 million to support their candidacy.
The Ebonyi case is also there, where the governor who had contested for the presidential primary came back to hijack the senatorial ticket from a woman.
“We believe it is time for us to discuss on the issues. We don’t want to be second-class citizens in the country. Our identity and dignity as women matter.
On Tuesday, we will meet the presidential candidates, taking questions from them, because from what we are seeing now, we haven’t seen anyone of them speak for women.”
Chairman, Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Betty Apiafi, recalled how she received an assassination threat from unknown persons due to her position.
According to her, insecurity and bad state of the economy would hinder many female candidates from winning elections in 2023.
Alleging that there is a deliberate conspiracy to sideline women in politics, Apiafi lampooned lawmakers for rejecting five gender bills during the last constitutional review.
The Executive Director, International Society for Media in Public Health, Mrs. Moji Makanjuola, lamented that despite attempts by past administrations to reach affirmative action for women, women inclusion has dropped from 35 per cent to less than 10 per cent across the nation.
She said aside women been marginalised during political parties’ primaries, the campaign councils recently constituted by parties were short of fairness.
She said: “If we have lost out on elective positions, we can still demand for appointed positions and we need to start speaking to it until we get it right.
You cannot leave almost 50 per cent of the population behind and think that they have nothing to contribute to nation building.
“There is no serious presidential candidate that will want to undermine what the women have. I mean on election days, we are the ones who stay on the queue forever.
We want to stop the dancing at campaigns by making demands to be included in nation building now.”
National Coordinator, 100 Women Lobby Group, Felicia Onibon, disclosed that for the sake of accountability, presidential candidates would be made to commit themselves to the welfare of women by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
In similar vein, a gender advocate and human rights body, under the auspices of the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), has called on frontline political parties and their candidates to ensure gender balance and equity in governance.
The founder and Chief Executive Officer, NWTF, Mrs Mufuliat Fijabi, lamented what she described as low participation of women in politics, saying the development is endangering the country’s democracy.
Fijabi spoke in Ado-Ekiti yesterday, while declaring open a one-day training programme, urging members of the political class to always fulfill their campaign promises and manifestoes and ensure gender balance in the appointment of their cabinet members.
MEANWHILE, the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, yesterday, warned that Nigeria would break up if APC and its presidential candidate, Tinubu win the 2023 general elections.
Obaseki spoke at the inauguration of the Edo PDP campaign council in the state.
The governor said no right-thinking person would vote APC in next February’s 2023 presidential election. He said: “In fact, God forbid APC comes into power, this country will break up, this country will fail.
It has already failed because nobody has done the kind of damage APC has done to this country. I don’t know how we will recover.
“My heart is beating. By the time Atiku comes into power we will not be able to sleep but to work day and night.
As I speak to you today, the debt of this country is going to N60 trillion, when are we going to get out of it? Every day, every month they are printing (money) to pay salaries.
When I cried out years ago, I never knew it was as bad as this. What will happen to the naira? Only God will help us.”
He also took a swipe at LP and its presidential candidate, Obi, saying his supporters, popularly known as ‘Obidients’ will soon run out of steam. He said PDP must win the 2023 elections to rescue the country from the ruling APC.
HOWEVER, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has accused Atiku of disrespecting him by picking the state’s PDP presidential campaign nominees without his contribution. The governor made the claim while inaugurating the PDP campaign council and launching of the party’s governorship campaign office in Port Harcourt.
He added that Atiku selected ‘enemies’ of Rivers into his campaign council for the 2023 general elections. Wike stressed that the photos of Atiku and those of the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, have been missing from the state’s PDP campaign materials because they don’t want him to campaign for the party at the national level.
“Some people have asked me why they haven’t seen the presidential candidate’s picture and the party chairman’s. I said what are you talking about? The presidential candidate entered my state and picked members of the presidential council without a whole governor of a state having a contribution,” he said.
“So, they said they don’t need me to campaign for them, they don’t need Rivers people to campaign for them. Will you force yourself?”
Reacting, a PDP young stakeholders group has faulted the claim by Wike that Atiku excluded him in appointment of members of his campaign council from the state. The group in a statement by its chairman of the Lagos State chapter, Dr Tai Oyekan, argued that Wike’s claim lacks merit.
The group likened Wike’s claims to that of a prodigal son who took his inheritance in annoyance.
It noted: “To put the records straight and which can be corroborated by every stakeholder in the party, the PDP and its presidential candidate consulted all governors and leaders in each state before nominating members into the presidential campaign council.
“Whereas all governors made nominations into the council, it was only in Rivers that the governor refused to forward his nominations into the council. It was therefore upon the refusal of the governor that the PDP and its presidential candidate went ahead by their own discretion to make nominations into the council.
“It is public knowledge that Wike has gone amok with the party since his failure to emerge as presidential candidate of the party and has stated, publicly also, that he will not cooperate with the party in our presidential campaign.
“Wike can be likened to a prodigal son who took his inheritance in annoyance. But we are hopeful that the party, as father to all, will have rectitude to receive and accept Wike back as a prodigal son whenever he returns in penitence.”